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DHS News December 2012

Disaster/Emergency Preparedness

In calmer times, it can be difficult to imagine that Allegheny County could ever face a disaster or an emergency; however, unexpected things do happen. Advanced planning is a person’s best defense in emergency situations. As the New Year draws closer, make a 2013 resolution to be prepared for emergencies: be informed, create a plan and make a kit. 

1. Be informed. Pennsylvania is not immune to a variety of unexpected disasters and emergencies, including winter storms, floods, fires, tornadoes, influenza pandemics and hazardous material incidents. Each hazard has a unique set of actions that need to be taken before, during and after the event. Learning more about each of these hazards – and specific actions to take – plays a crucial role in planning for an emergency.

2. Create a plan. Emergencies rarely happen at ideal times, and people may find themselves stranded in cars, forced to shelter in place at work or school, and/or separated from family members. It’s important to put together a plan to prepare for a variety of scenarios. A few questions to consider include:

  • What are the emergency plans for workplaces, schools and other locations where family members spend a great deal of time?
  • If there is an emergency, how will family members get in contact? Where will they meet?
  • If transportation is needed, what are reliable options?
  • How will medical or assistive devices be powered if there is an outage?
  • How will pets be taken care of in case of an emergency or evacuation?
  • What vital records may be needed after a disaster?
  • Who is available to help older family members or family members with special needs?

3. Make a Kit. While emergency responders work hard, they may not be able to get to those who need help immediately after a disaster. An emergency kit with enough supplies for at least three days can help to support a family’s needs until additional resources are available.

When creating a kit, everyone needs basic supplies including at least one gallon of bottled water per person per day and foods that won’t spoil and are easy to store. It is also helpful to have sanitation and personal hygiene supplies, batteries, extra cash, blankets and a multipurpose tool. Those who take medicine or use a medical treatment every day should have enough medicine on hand to last for at least one week and a list of prescriptions, including the medication name, dosage and any other directions.

“During both large and small disasters, DHS provides support to our consumers, their families and the community to help mitigate the effects of the disaster on all who were touched by it,” said Lucille Underwood, assistant disaster coordinator in the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH). “Personal preparedness helps to minimize the effect that a disaster has on individuals and their families.”

Emergencies will happen, but taking action now can help to minimize their impact. For additional information, please visit ReadyPA website (statewide resources) or FEMA / Ready.gov website (national resources).

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